VIA BEETCAM  — The coronavirus, COVID-19, has come as a shock to the global economy – and the media industry is likely to feel the force, too.

Until the virus spreads more widely in the west and until more media organizations start reporting results, the full impact is hard to forecast – but brands have an opportunity to change their approach, says GroupM’s global president of business intelligence Brian Wieser.

In this video interview with Beet.TV, Wieser says how GroupM is adapting.

“A lot of it right now is just providing information, frankly, to our clients, making sure that they’re keeping the brand safe, that they’re ideally finding ways to add value to consumers, and maybe different ways than they did before,” Wieser says.

“One of the better examples I’m aware of in China was that one athletic apparel brand that encouraged consumers to exercise at home, and an emphasised, ‘Here’s how you can do it, don’t let this stop you from doing what you need to do’.

“I think different categories of marketers can find different ways to be useful. Some of it just requires some creativity, as to what the brand is able to do.”

Group M subsidiary MediaCom’s UK division asked all staff to work from home on Friday, March 13 – a test for its systems to deliver continuity in the event of wider looming restrictions.

The impact of COVID-19 is already wide-ranging, including:

  • Ad agency holding groups’ share prices have fallen.
  • Several tech and media conferences have cancelled, with some exploring alternative virtual conferences.
  • Closure of movie theaters will hit box office takings, forcing several titles to be postponed.
  • Italian broadcast group Mediaset reported upward ad revenue declined in March due to COVID-19, whilst several TV productions are being affected.
  • Sporting tournaments are being postponed, threatening broadcast exposure, with big question marks over the upcoming Olympics and Euro 2020.

Wieser says some Chinese media owners reported a “curtailment of spending” after the first virus-linked deaths in January.

He suggests postponement of events may have a lesser impact on ad revenue than cancellation, but he worries that particular impact in China will hit global supply chains that begin in Asia.

Still, Wieser – who was “the most-quoted man in advertising” as a Pivotal Research analyst before joining GroupM a year ago – thinks the virus crisis will make clear the value of ad agencies like his new employer.

“Any time there’s significant uncertainty, I think the value, at least, of expert advice only goes up,” he says.

“As we’ve seen, in other periods of crisis, that, certainly, in the last 20 years, that media indices were only more and more important.”

Wieser was interviewed remotely by Beet.TV from his office in Portland, Oregon.

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